Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to appoint Walter Katz as his lead policy advisor on public safety this week, according to multiple sources that have spoken to The Daily Line. Katz is currently the Independent Police Auditor for San Jose, California and has been serving there since his appointment in November 2015. Previously Katz had served as the Deputy Inspector General for Los Angeles County overseeing the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
This video includes an interview with Katz talking about his agency and job.
His predecessor, Deputy Chief of Staff Janey Rountree, left the Mayor’s office last month, on the same day the Department of Justice’s report on Chicago policing was released. Rountree had overseen policymaking for Police, Fire, OEMC, IPRA and 911 services.
Katz comes with high praise from Chicago’s police reform community. “When we started doing research for the Task Force, we spoke to a lot of people to get a sense of who around the country was doing the best work on police accountability and Walter was on almost everybody’s short list,” said Adam Gross from Business and Professional People for The Public Interest.
Indeed, Katz, who also served as a public defender for fifteen years in Los Angeles has earned a national reputation for his work on police oversight. He is a board member of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and has directed multiple training panels for police oversight professionals, including one on investigating police shootings of unarmed persons. Katz is also well written, with an article published in the Harvard Law Review and an opinion in The New York Times.
Last fall, Katz was flown in to Chicago for a special City Council hearing on police reform. Katz discussed San Jose’s process for hiring a police oversight head, which included a detailed interview process with community oversight panels. None of his advice was heeded for the hiring of Chicago’s current Independent Police Review Authority head, Sharon Fairley.
“The primary currency when you’re involved in oversight is credibility, and that’s having credibility with all stakeholders,” Katz told a joint Council Committee on Budget and Public Safety. “You hear the word credibility and trust coming up time and time again. Those two things cannot be legislated.”
During his testimony last September, Katz told Council members that he oversees a staff of six with a $1.25 million budget. San Jose’s police force is about a tenth the size of Chicago’s with approximately 1,400 sworn and non-sworn personnel.
Katz has overseen a number of investigations in San Jose that mirror some of the problems discussed in reports from the Department of Justice and the Police Accountability Task Force. This month a study requested by his office found African-American drivers in San Jose are about one-and-a-half times more likely than whites to be pulled over by police for a traffic stop. Also last month, Katz kicked off a series of community forums meant to bolster relationships between San Jose minority residents and the city’s police force. Last year San Jose rolled out police body cameras.
“There is a definite gap in perceptions of reality. It’s important to have conversations so they can learn about how police do their work, and also for police to get a better understanding of how the public perceives their work,” Katz told the San Jose Mercury News this week.
Katz is also a member of the police oversight consulting firm, OIR Group, which has filed to serve as the monitor for federal consent decrees with the New Orleans Police Department and the Cleveland Police Department. Chicago contract records show no city relationship with OIR Group.
Mayor Emanuel’s office was contacted by The Daily Line but did not provide comment by publication.